Ever wondered how you can eat healthily on a budget? It’s a lot easier than you may think. There’s a common misconception that healthy eating = expensive, but that’s not necessarily the case.
As mums, we often play the role of household project manager, chauffeur, and even accountant! It’s a tough job at times, but someone’s gotta do it! Luckily, you don’t have to figure it all out alone!
Here’s how you can enjoy more delicious, healthy meals without overspending each month….
What’s a typical family grocery budget?
How much does the typical family budget for groceries, and how do you compare?
The average Australian family spends around $150 per week on groceries. The exact amount depends on where in Australia you live, how many children you have, and so on. But this figure should give you an idea about where you might sit, compared to the rest of the country.
It’s also useful to look at the average amount spent on restaurants and takeout, which sits at $44 per week for each Australian household. If you do a bit of basic maths, this means the average food budget for a typical Australian family is around $194/week.
How does your family compare? If you don’t already know what you spend on food each week, start tracking your grocery spending for the next few weeks.
Whatever your food budget (whether it’s more or less than the typical Australian family), there’s usually a way to cut back at least a little. And you can do it without resorting to cheap, processed foods. In fact, homemade, healthy meals are often more budget-friendly than takeout food. Here’s how…
How to save money on meals
1. Plan ahead
When you’ve got a plan, you can stick to your budget a lot more easily. You can choose healthy meals that include budget-friendly ingredients, and you can make sure you’re always ready with something to eat before you’re hungry. This means you’re less likely to need to resort to takeout. You can download our favourite meal planning tools here, including our weekly planner and our grocery list planner.
2. Make a list
Part of planning your healthy meals will include making a list. Once you’ve planned out your menu above, you’ll need to list out the ingredients you need to make each recipe. Then you can cross-check this list against what’s already in your cupboard, fridge, and freezer so you don’t double-up or waste something you’ve already got.
You can also utilise the shopping list function in the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge app.
3. Don’t shop when you’re hungry
Shopping when you’re hungry is dangerous for your budget… and your health! If you shop hungry, you’ll be much more likely to grab quick processed food, snacks, and give in to cravings. So make sure you eat a proper healthy meal before you head to the shops or pack a healthy snack so you never shop hungry again.
4. Shop at farmers markets and discount stores
Sometimes the best place to get good, healthy food on a budget is your local farmers’ markets or roadside stall. Not only is the food fresher and straight from the farm, but it’s also often cheaper because there’s no middleman. But you don’t have to head to the countryside or markets to get affordable ingredients to cook with. Even just switching your shopping from Coles and Woolworths to Aldi can mean you save $$$ each week.
5. Buy in season
Ever noticed that in one week, strawberries are $1 a punnet, then a month later, they’re $5 a punnet? It’s all about the seasons. If you pick fresh ingredients that are in season, you’ll keep your costs down… AND you’ll create healthier meals because all the ingredients you use are fresh and local.
6. Don’t over-buy
Do you ever find yourself buying too much food (or too much of the wrong food) and then you have to throw a lot of it out? You’re not the only one… in fact, one survey shows that 43% of Australians do this regularly! So stick to your list, make sure you don’t over-buy, and you’ll find you waste less and your budget stretches further.
7. Buy in bulk
This might seem to contradict the previous tip, but it’s still a valid way to save money on your shop. If you regularly use a lot of one ingredient, why not buy it in bulk? For example, if you plan to eat a lot of brown rice next month, grab it in the 1kg bag instead of the 500g bag so it works out cheaper, overall. Also if you plan to have multiple healthy meals that include the same meat like chicken or mince you can buy in bulk, portion it, and freeze it.
8. Reduce processed foods
When you plan healthy meals for your family, you’ll automatically reduce the amount of expense, unhealthy processed foods. That’s a budget win and a health win!
9. Serve smaller portions
When you start to be more mindful of what you eat, you’ll stop overloading your plate (and your family members’ plates). This means you won’t need to spend as much on ingredients and you won’t end up with as much waste at the end of each meal.
10. Make bulk and freeze
If you buy your ingredients in bulk, why not cook in bulk too, then freeze the extra meals? Not only will you save money on your ingredients, but you’ll save time (which is just as precious, right?). And here’s another related tip: if you buy a bunch of fresh ingredients but can’t quite get through them, see if you can freeze them for future recipes or weight loss smoothies!
11. Enjoy the leftovers
If one of your healthy meals isn’t freezer-friendly, you can probably at least pop it in the fridge overnight and eat it the next day. Eating leftovers can save you a lot of time and money. According to one study, you could save an average of $150/week just by doing leftovers instead of eating out once a week!
For more money-saving tips, check out our blog, 250 Money Saving Tips For Mums On A Budget.
6 healthy recipes if you are trying to save money
1. Gluten Free Hummingbird Cake – $1.28 per serve
This Gluten-free Hummingbird cake marries the flavours of banana, pineapple and coconut into a delicious show-stopping cake, perfect for a special occasion or equally to enjoy as a dessert or for afternoon tea.
This is a big hit with both adults and kids! It’s just 320 calories per serves, uses pantry basics and takes just 10 minutes to prepare, then the oven does all the work. It’s a great family-friendly option for those busy week nights.
3. Healthy Chocolate Weetbix Slice – 28c per serve
This recipe is the gift that keeps on giving! Once you’ve made it, it will become your regular chocolate go-to recipe. At just 190 calories per serve, it satisfies chocolate cravings but without all the guilt!
You can’t get much cheaper base ingredients than sausages and rice. Add in some curry powder and vegetables and you’ll have a tasty meal that can feed the whole family without making a big dent in your food budget.
Prep time 10 mins, cooking time 30 mins, serves 6, 361 cals
- 1 cup basmati rice
- cooking oil spray
- lean sausages of choice
- 1 red onion
- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
- 1 small sweet potato, grated
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tinned tomatoes, diced 400g
- 2 cups baby spinach, chopped
- Cook rice according to packet directions.
- Lightly spray a frying pan with cooking oil spray over a medium-high heat. Add the sausages and cook for 5-6 minutes, to brown all over. Remove the pan and set aside.
- Add onion, mushrooms and sweet potato to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until sweet potato is tender and the mushrooms have released their juices.
- Slice the sausages into 2 cm segments. Return to the pan with the curry powder Stir well then add the tomato. Bring to the boi, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.
- Just before ready to serve, add the baby spinach and cook for a minute or tow, until wilted.
- Divide rice and curried sausages evenly between 6 bowls to serve.
- Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
These are seriously yummy when you are craving something sweet but don’t want to go off track with your weight loss goals. Just 128 calories per serve.
6. Tuna And Pumpkin Mac and Cheese – $1.20 per serve
Mac and cheese could almost be described as the ultimate comfort food, this version includes high protein tuna and pumpkin for a healthy twist. Just 335 cals per serve.
Some more of our favourite healthy meals on a budget
Ready to start meal planning and prepping? Here are some of our community’s most loved healthy meals – all with a deliciously low cost per serve:
- Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
- Classic Veggie Lasagne
- Pumpkin Soup
- Homemade Pizza
- Beef San Choy Bow
- Thai Style Vegetarian Satay Fried Rice With Egg
- One-Pot Spaghetti Bolognese
- Healthy Chilli Con Carne With Beef And Kidney Beans
For more recipes, join the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge!
Our 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge is a weight loss and healthy eating plan designed by mums – for MUMS – to help them tackle their health and fitness.
Our Challenge is home to more than 3,000 delicious recipes, fat-burning exercises, and 24/7 support to helps MUMS REACH THEIR WEIGHT LOSS GOALS.
Each month our 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge is themed, targeting things like reducing sugar, budget recipes, meals for fussy eaters, recipes with 5 ingredients or less, and many more.
You can find out the theme of this month’s challenge HERE.